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Thread: Trip Report: Upper Florida Keys 04/18 - 14/20/2008

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    Trip Report: Upper Florida Keys 04/18 - 14/20/2008

    **Pictures Included At The End Of The Report**

    In early March, one of the Northeast’ finest Optima divers and honorary Florida S.C.R.U.B.’s member, Richie (Divereb) posted an upcoming trip thread inviting all Rebreather World divers to join him on his April dive trip to Tavernier Florida. Since I only live approximately 110 miles North of Tavernier, and had also heard so many wonderful things about Conch Republic Divers (CONCH REPUBLIC DIVERS VOTED #1 DIVE SHOP IN FLORIDA KEYS..2006 & 2007), I decided to join Richie and enjoy some of South Florida’s finest diving together with a few other fellow rebreather divers.

    I was fortunate enough on this trip to convince another Northeast Optima diver, John (JCdesign97), to serve as my photography dive buddy and partner in crime for this trip. John resides in Philly, but has become a regular figure on recent Florida S.C.R.U.B.’s trips, so it didn’t take too much effort to get him to sign on for this one. Along with Richie, John and myself, Steve (dvrstev), another Northeast Optima diver graced us with his presence. Let me also not forget Terry (Terry), who made the drive down from Atlanta with his new Hammerhead Rebreather and dove with us on Friday and Saturday!

    When the day finally arrived, on Thursday, April 17th, I snuck out of my office early and picked up John at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport, where we packed his gear into my car and headed straight for the Florida Keys. Fortunately, the traffic was light, so the drive from the Ft. Lauderdale Airport to Tavernier in the Keys only took us an hour and a half - Well worth the drive for the diving you get in the Florida Keys! We had made arrangements to stay at a small apartment offered for rent by Conch Republic Divers (Condos /Conch Republic Divers Inc. Scuba Diving Shop. Florida Keys./), which ended up being perfect, because it was very reasonably priced and approximately a half a mile from the dive shop / dive boats. That evening, we had a great dinner at Ballyhoo’s with Richie, then headed back to the apartment to assemble our Optima’s and cameras for Friday’s scheduled morning and afternoon dives.

    Friday morning, we arrived early at the dock and were ready to dive. The weather was a bit rough that day, but more than doable; fortunately, the forecast was anticipating decreasing wind and fabulous weather for Saturday and Sunday.

    Out first dive was aboard the Aquatic Diver, a 30 foot Island Hopper, which is the smaller of Conch Republic’s two boats. The Aquatic Diver worked well for rebreathers and had a great ladder in the back that allowed divers to climb wearing their fins. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the boat was almost completely rebreather divers, because apparently there was a Northeastern instructor who was teaching a class of all Kiss Classic divers.

    After a bumpy ride out, we made to our first dive spot, Conch Ledge. Since we were primarily rebreathers, the dive was scheduled to be a double dip in the same spot, which worked out perfectly, because Conch Republic offered us the option of doing two shorter dives or one long dive – We picked one long dive, of course! Conch Ledge is a reef in approximately 60 feet of water, but it sits on the edge of a slope that drops down to approximately 85 to 90 feet. This reef was very typical of the reefs in the Keys – Awesome! There was an abundance of marine life, far greater that I would normally find in Ft. Lauderdale. I recall seeing lots of Butterfly Fish, Blue and Queen Angel Fish, small Moray eels and a very cooperative Scorpion Fish that seemed to enjoy posing for the camera. The visibility was not spectacular, but it was at least 50 to 60 feet, so it worked out great for my goal of taking lots of pictures. John and I spent most our time in the shallow part of the pool, but did drop down to approximately 80+ feet near the end of the dive. We ended up diving for approximately 97 minutes, and only surfaced because we were getting a bit cold, as the water temperature was still in the mid-seventies.

    On the ride back, Conch Republic took orders on board for those of us who were going out on the afternoon trip, so we had our sandwiches ready to pick up at the restaurant at the dock upon our return – If you dive with them, you have got to try the Cuban Sandwich, because it’s amazing, and that’s coming from a person who’s parents are both Cuban!

    After lunch, we loaded our gear onto the Republic Diver, a 46 ft Newton Dive Boat that is probably the most comfortable boat I’ve ever dove on. Even at full capacity, this boat is extremely roomy for all aboard. The Aquatic Diver has booted racks for tanks, which doesn’t mesh well with rebreathers, but in true Conch Republic fashion, no problem, because the crew was happy to unscrew the boots and create as many open bootless spots as we needed for our rebreathers – That’s service with a smile!

    The ride out was much smoother aboard the Republic Diver and we quickly made it out to the Wreck of the Eagle. The Eagle is a large freighter that has been down for more than 20 years, so it has lots of growth and marine life. This dive was again scheduled for a double dip to accommodate the rebreather divers aboard, which again turned out to be one long dive. Because this dive is a bit deeper, at 105 ft, my overall run time was shorter than the morning time, but I still managed to do 77 minutes total run time. Again, lots and lots of marine live, including large schools of Permits and Caravel Jacks and a nice size Goliath Grouper looming in the shadows.

    Upon our return at the dock, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Conch Republic again went out of their way to make the gear washing thing more than convenient. They had two very large rinse buckets for all to use, but that’s not all. Conch Republic has two very large garment style racks, each containing approximately 25 large wetsuit hangers, so if you were diving with them the next day, you just needed to hang your rinsed stuff on those hangers and they would wheel the garment racks into the store at the end of the day for drying and save keeping – Now that’s convenience! I was also able to store my bailout bottles and gear bag inside the store, which again turned out to be convenient. We did take our rebreathers home each evening, but that is only because we wanted to rinse out the counter lungs and loops and complete out EAC cartridge exchanges, tank switching and assembly checklists in the comfort of our apartment.

    We were pretty tired after two dive trips, but we still managed to make it out for sushi at Num Thai, which had been recommended to us by several folks. The sushi was delicious, but we were exhausted, so we made our way back early, completed our rebreather and camera prep and crashed for the evening.

    We decided to not dive the morning trip, because we were so exhausted from the previous day, but we did head out to the Spiegel Grove on the afternoon trip. If you are not familiar with the Spiegel Grove, it’s HUGE! I believe it’s approximately 500 feet long and sits in approx. 130 feet of water. Again, this trip was scheduled for a double dip, so one long dive on the wreck was the plan. There was a bit of current on the wreck, but nothing too unmanageable. The Republic Diver, Captained this time by the famous Captain Gary himself, dropped us right at the buoy secured to the center and uppermost section of the wreck. This section was adorned with a large American Flag, which was flapping in the current and made for nice pictures. The wreck itself doesn’t have an enormous amount of growth on it yet, but it did have plenty of marine life. Nearer to the stern, there was a large tower that had another large flag, which rumor has it was a dive flag, but it was tough to make that out - Again, lots of pictures of the flag!

    We ended up staying on the Spiegel Grove for a total of 87 minutes and hit a max depth of 91 feet. I would definitely do this wreck, because there is so much to see and some very respectable marine life, even this early its development stage as an artificial reef. We primarily stayed outside the wreck, but there were many open compartments to venture into, many of which you can swim through and not lose sight of the ambient light.

    That evening after the Spiegel Grove Dive, Richie, Steve, John and myself went to dinner at Sundowners in Key Largo. If you’ve never been to Sundowners, it gets pretty busy in the early evening, because it sits on the bay and has an amazing view of the sun as it sets in the West, plus, the food, primarily seafood of course, is fabulous!

    On Sunday morning we headed out to dive the Duane. This plan was scheduled to dive the Wreck and a shallow reef after. It had been a long weekend, so we opted to only dive the wreck and do a bit of sunbathing during the second dive. The Wreck of the Duane is another amazing wreck that has been down for much longer than the Spiegel Grove, so it does have an enormous amount of grown on it. We were fortunate to dive it when there was not a speck of current, given that the wreck has a reputation for having a fierce current at times. The conditions were so flat, blue and currentless, that the captain opted to do a hot drop, because fishermen were on some of the buoys. I’ve done this wreck many times and it’s always a crowd pleaser. The wreck was covered with large barracuda’s, which were not at all shy about swimming by you to say hello! Much of the wreck, including the bow section is covered with orange cup corals, which make for beautiful pictures. There’s also an extraordinary amount of marine life with very large schools of colorful grunts lining the entire wreck.

    We did a short dive, because the captain needed to keep to the schedule, but we still managed to do a total of 60 minutes, even though we hit a maximum of 111 ft. On this dive, I did manage to get several pictures of the Kiss Class doing their deco hang, so that made for an interesting hang.

    After another delicious Cuban sandwich, we went out in the afternoon and did another long dive on the Eagle. I spent almost the entire dive in practically one spot, because I found a few Queen Angel Fish that were in the mood to be photographed, which is not a common occurrence! We did a fairly long deco hang, which we had planned, because after several days of diving, we felt it wouldn’t hurt to flush our system, so we were in the water a total of 79 minutes.

    That evening, while unloading our equipment back at the apartment, Captain Gary invited us to his home for Pizza and Cuba Libre’s (Rum and Coke). We had an amazing evening talking about the future of rebreathers and hearing about some of Captain Gary’s adventures starring in the television show Treasure Hunters. Gary even showed us Episode 5, which showed him and John Chatterton searching for treasure along the Florida Coast. We had a great time that evening – Good times all around!

    The next morning at 4:30AM, I drove John back to the Ft. Lauderdale Airport where he was taking an early flight back to Philadelphia and was headed back to the office that day, but he was happy, because he spent a few days in the Florida Keys with some friendly rebreather divers from the Rebreather World Forums!

    If you have the opportunity sometime, definitely head down to Tavernier Florida and do some diving with Conch Republic Divers (http://www.conchrepublicdivers.com/index.html). Captain Gary and Brenda are wonderful people who know how to take care of their customers and ensure that everyone leaves with a memorable dive experience. They do have O2 at the shop, but they have not put a booster in yet, but from their comments, it should happen in the not too distant future. Also, they welcome rebreather divers and make every effort to try to ensure that rebreather divers have the opportunity to do longer dives, schedule permitting of course!

    I also want to thank Richie - Richie made the initial arrangements with the shop and arrived early to pave the way for us divers who arrived later – Thanks Richie!

    As I indicated, I did take my little Sony Cybershot with me to the Keys and managed to get a few shots to share with everyone, so you have an idea of what to expect if you ever get the opportunity to dive the Florida Keys. I’ll post the pics within this thread for everyone to see:
    Attached Images
    Last edited by sfldiver; 22nd April 2008 at 11:16.

  2. #2
    Moderator ScubaDadMiami has much to be proud of ScubaDadMiami has much to be proud of ScubaDadMiami has much to be proud of ScubaDadMiami has much to be proud of ScubaDadMiami has much to be proud of ScubaDadMiami has much to be proud of ScubaDadMiami has much to be proud of ScubaDadMiami has much to be proud of ScubaDadMiami has much to be proud of ScubaDadMiami has much to be proud of ScubaDadMiami has much to be proud of ScubaDadMiami's Avatar
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    Re: Trip Report: Upper Florida Keys 04/18 - 14/20/2008

    Great report and pics (as always). Sorry we did not have a chance to dive together on this trip. Glad you had fun!

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    Re: Trip Report: Upper Florida Keys 04/18 - 14/20/2008

    Great Pics and report. Many thanks.

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    Re: Trip Report: Upper Florida Keys 04/18 - 14/20/2008

    great photos,
    looks like ye all had a fab weekend, conch republic, will be a place that if i ever get to florida, ill give them a shout. they sound very good.

    thanks for sharing.

  5. #5
    My unit can beat up yours JCdesign97 has much to be proud of JCdesign97 has much to be proud of JCdesign97 has much to be proud of JCdesign97 has much to be proud of JCdesign97 has much to be proud of JCdesign97 has much to be proud of JCdesign97 has much to be proud of JCdesign97 has much to be proud of JCdesign97 has much to be proud of JCdesign97 has much to be proud of JCdesign97 has much to be proud of JCdesign97's Avatar
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    Re: Trip Report: Upper Florida Keys 04/18 - 14/20/2008

    Now that I've gotten a good night's sleep I'm finally coherent enough to reply ... outstanding work on the trip report Adrian! And the pictures are awesome, as well - you're really getting your set-up dialed in. I, on the other hand, was shooting a brand new camera, housing and strobes that had never been in the water before this trip. BAD call on my part, I was all over the place trying to figure out all of the settings. We'll see if I come up with any that are worth posting.

    As far as the trip itself it was simply another great time with great people. I can't say enough about Gary and Brenda and their crew at Conch Republic Divers. Their professionalism and at the same time laid-back attitude shows through every part of their operation. I've been on enough trips with Richie, Steve and Adrian now to know that it was going to be a great couple of days of comraderie and ball-breaking, and I wasn't disappointed. We four horsemen of the Optima were actually outnumbered on half of the dives by Martin and Ted's KISS class - six KISSes in all, if memory serves. There was of course the requisite amount of lighthearted unit bashing. Congratulations to the four new KISS divers and also to Ted Green on completing his KISS instructor certification.

    All in all another excellent trip that I was happy and fortunate to be a part of. Thanks to Gary and Brenda for going above and beyond the call of duty; and Adrian, Richie, Steve, etc. ... can't wait to do it again!

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    Re: Trip Report: Upper Florida Keys 04/18 - 14/20/2008

    nice write-up, it was enjoyable looking at the pics as well.

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    RBW Member Terry is an unknown quantity at this point Terry's Avatar
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    Re: Trip Report: Upper Florida Keys 04/18 - 14/20/2008

    Hey Guys -
    It was real fun meeting Adrianne, John, Steve, and Richie. I didnt have the chance to dive with them as I was with a OC friend, but it was good to meet you guys.
    This was a great write up, thanks.

    Q: How do you get your picture to come out so clear, mine always have alot of the particles floating around?

    Attached is a pix of a milling machine the machine shop in the Spiegel, and me inside the Eagle.

    Terry

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    RBW Member Terry is an unknown quantity at this point Terry's Avatar
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    Re: Trip Report: Upper Florida Keys 04/18 - 14/20/2008

    Owell the pix I took are too big to upload. I will work on it.

  9. #9
    Underwater Paparazzi sfldiver has much to be proud of sfldiver has much to be proud of sfldiver has much to be proud of sfldiver has much to be proud of sfldiver has much to be proud of sfldiver has much to be proud of sfldiver has much to be proud of sfldiver has much to be proud of sfldiver has much to be proud of sfldiver has much to be proud of sfldiver has much to be proud of sfldiver's Avatar
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    Re: Trip Report: Upper Florida Keys 04/18 - 14/20/2008

    Quote Originally Posted by Terry  View Original Post
    Hey Guys -
    It was real fun meeting Adrianne, John, Steve, and Richie. I didnt have the chance to dive with them as I was with a OC friend, but it was good to meet you guys.
    This was a great write up, thanks.

    Q: How do you get your picture to come out so clear, mine always have alot of the particles floating around?

    Attached is a pix of a milling machine the machine shop in the Spiegel, and me inside the Eagle.

    Terry
    Hi Terry,

    It was very nice meeting you as well. Hopefully we will get the opportunity to dive together sometime in the near future.

    The particles floating around appear if you light them up with the strobe.

    The trick is to get as close to the subject as possible, so that you have as few particles between the lens and the subject to light up as possible. Also, it's easier to get close if you use a wide angle lens like the fisheye lens I used for these pictures - That lens allows me to get very close and still include a very braod area within the picture.

    Next, you need to position your strobe to be pointing away from the subject, so that you are only lighting the subject with the inside edge of the light cone of the strobe. With two strobes, like I used for these pictures, this is easier, because you can use both of the inside edges of the strobes. If you have your strobe(s) pointed out and away, then you can still light the subject with the inside edge(s) of the strobe(s) and not light any of the particles between the lens and the subject.

    Hope that helps!

  10. #10
    Underwater Paparazzi sfldiver has much to be proud of sfldiver has much to be proud of sfldiver has much to be proud of sfldiver has much to be proud of sfldiver has much to be proud of sfldiver has much to be proud of sfldiver has much to be proud of sfldiver has much to be proud of sfldiver has much to be proud of sfldiver has much to be proud of sfldiver has much to be proud of sfldiver's Avatar
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    Re: Trip Report: Upper Florida Keys 04/18 - 14/20/2008

    Quote Originally Posted by Terry  View Original Post
    Owell the pix I took are too big to upload. I will work on it.
    You can resize the picture by using Microsoft Office Picture Manager and resize the picture easily. Just right click on the picture and place the curser over the "open with" link, then select "Microsoft Office Picture Manager." Once the picture is open within the program, hit the "picture" link within the top tool bar and click on "resize" within the drop down menu that will open. Once you do that, the resize tool bar should open on the right side of the screen. Then, just open the drop down menu within the "Predefined width x height" link on the tool bar. If you select the second one "800x600px," that one usually fills up the Rebreather World Screen completely, like the pictures I recently posted.

    Just remember to make a copy, before you resize it, because you probably want to keep your original picture with it's original size.

    Hope that helps!

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